How to Save Money on Everything

I’ve been to well over half of the fifty US states and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another one that has waffle irons that make waffles in the shape of the state in what has to be at least a majority of its hotels. God bless Texas.

Through much of 2019, my readers and I soldiered through posts about how to save money on every type of expense. Now that we’re in 2020, it’s time to pull it all together in possibly the most valuable single post I’ve ever written for this blog. Below is a list of the best ways I know to save money on literally everything, along with links to the original posts if you’re looking for more detailed information. If you follow everything on here, combined with some extra tips/tricks from the original, you are very likely to spend half what your neighbor does for almost exactly the same lifestyle. And that, my friends, is how you make financial progress in life.  

  • Auto maintenance/repairs
    • Use Amsoil for better protection and less hassle.
    • Use Youtube to learn how to do some or all of your own work.
  • Cash donations
    • This is a work in progress for me, but 80,000 Hours was recommended to me and seems to have a lot of information to help in this area.
  • Clothing
    • Buy high quality, “timeless” style clothes that will last a long time.
    • Save money by buying clothes at Costco, where they are often sold at incredibly good prices.
  • Food – groceries
    • Buy select items at Costco to save a ton.
    • Learn to cook your own food at home.
    • Spend most of your grocery shopping time in the produce department and almost none of it buying highly processed crap.
  • Food – restaurants
    • Treat restaurant meals as the luxury item they are.
    • Limit high mark up add ons like alcohol and desserts to minimize costs.
  • Fun
    • Learn to enjoy activities that cost little or nothing – there are plenty of them to occupy most or all of your spare time.
    • When you do spend money, do it intentionally; in other words, make sure there is a good reason the money needs to be spent rather than just spending it mindlessly.
  • Gas
    • Drive a reasonably fuel efficient, well maintained vehicle.
    • Drive gently and potentially look into “hypermiling” techniques if you want to save more.
    • Look for opportunities to reduce mileage by combining trips or walking/biking.
  • Gifts
    • Be creative and buy something that shows you were actually thinking of someone rather than simply spending money to spend money. If you don’t know someone well enough to do that, why are you buying this person a gift in the first place?
  •  Household expenses
    • Costco. All day in this category.
    • Use less of all kinds of things – toothpaste, dishwasher soap, etc. Replace disposable items like paper towels with reusable ones like microfiber towels.
  • Housing
    • Whether you rent or “own” (that is in quotes since no one truly owns real estate; even a paid off house requires paying annual rent to the bad guys), think about what space, amenities, etc you actually need and don’t get something that has dramatically more than that.
      • This has the added bonus of limiting the amount you spend on crap you don’t need. If you can’t store it, you probably won’t buy it.
  • Insurance
    • In general, whether it’s health insurance or auto/home/renters, you want to buy minimal, “disaster only” coverage and then keep yourself/your car/your home/whatever healthy. Do whatever you can to avoid using your insurance. It’s a necessary evil, but the goal is to minimize what you spend on it.
  • Medical
    • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Probably a hell of a lot more given today’s medical costs. Keep yourself healthy. It’s the most important investment you can make.
    • Understand the health insurance system and act accordingly so you don’t get screwed.
    • Goodrx is a godsend if you don’t have prescription insurance.
  • Memberships
    • Costco will pay for itself many times over, even if you’re a household of one like me.
    • A gym membership is almost infinitely cheaper than high medical expenses.
    • I would be very skeptical of most other types of memberships; if I were going to get any, they would need to offer much more in actual value than what they cost.
  • Supplements
    • This used to be a quagmire but now it’s pretty simple; Costco will save you a fortune in this area. Their economy of scale relative to “Bros Selling The Same Exact Stuff in a Gym Themed Store R’ Us” is just impossible to compete with. If they don’t have it, try Amazon. Again, economy of scale. This was so, so much more difficult when this stuff wasn’t mainstream.
  • Technology services
    • No cable. Stream. And even then, only what you genuinely want to watch. In other words, don’t watch tv just to be watching tv.
    • Don’t let the internet companies trick you into paying for way more bandwith than you need. Talk to an IT person you trust and they will help you on that.
    • Learn to play the game; don’t ever pay more than the “promotional” price.
    • Use a low cost cell phone service provider like Mint Mobile or Republic Wireless to pay a fraction of what most people do.
  • Utilities
    • Use less. That is 90% of it for most people. Learn which items/devices use most of the electricity (the refrigerator and air conditioner in most cases), start working on those items, and move down the list from there.
  • Vacation
    • If you travel for work and you aren’t using rewards programs to build up points that can be used towards your personal traveling throughout the year, you’re doing it wrong.
    • Churn credit cards as needed to pay for flights, hotels, etc.
  • Vehicle depreciation
    • Buy something 4-5 years old with around 50k miles on it for half price.
    • Take care of it and drive it for several years.
    • Rinse and repeat.

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